Does my MSP need a Professional Services Automation tool?

Richard Tubb

For many IT companies making the transition to becoming a Managed Service Provider (MSP) the question often arises, does our business need a Professional Services Automation (PSA) tool?

 

My Business is too Complex for a PSA Tool

There is often an understandable but mistaken belief that a PSA tool is nothing more than a glorified Helpdesk application. Therefore it is not unusual for some IT companies to point to their custom-built Helpdesk application, or their off-the-shelf ticketing system as being all that their business requires.

For many companies, the time and effort they’ve invested into building their own Helpdesk application – perhaps using SharePoint or Microsoft Access – makes them loathed to consider phasing it out in favor of something new. It is not uncommon to hear an IT company describe their situation as “unique” and not at all like other IT companies, therefore an off-the-shelf PSA tool will not meet their needs.

PSA vs. CRM

But while a PSA tool does contain Helpdesk functionality, it is much more than a Helpdesk application. The clue is in the title. A "Professional Services Automation" tool could be described as an operating system for your MSP business. For many MSPs, their PSA tool is the central repository for all information about their processes, about their clients, about assets and inventory, about billable time and much more besides. It can help an MSP with customer management, service delivery, contracts and billing, and that's just the start.

Other IT companies run a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool which they’ve customized for their business needs. For many, this is enough, but closer scrutiny typically uncovers areas a PSA tool would benefit them over their current CRM setup.

For instance, the top PSA tools offer integration with the other tools used within an MSP business. If you have a remote management and monitoring (RMM) tool, then your PSA tool will synchronize data with it to ensure you have all the latest information on your clients. Most PSA tools will also integrate with finance packages, such as Sage and QuickBooks, as well as quoting and proposal tools such as QuoteWerks and Quosal.

Information to help your business grow

A PSA tool enables an MSP to capture information and re-use it to make their business more efficient and more profitable. One example is project work. You quote a client for an SBS installation. You deliver the project. You think it’s a profitable project, but you have no idea how much time you spent on the project.

Is it profitable? Would you undertake another SBS installation at the same rate? Or do you need to understand how much time you spent on the project and tweak future work accordingly?

A PSA tool allows you to capture the actual time you spent on a project and determine it’s profitability - not just take a guess at it. This is “Service Intelligence”.

Fundamentally, this is where a PSA tool benefits an MSP. There is an well known phrase: “What can be measured can be managed”. A PSA tool allows you to measure all aspects of your business to ensure you are profitable and to look for areas for improvement.

Choosing the right PSA 

When choosing your PSA tool, think about the main challenges within your business. Is capturing billable time important to you? Or is documenting your clients' networks a challenge? Are you unsure about the profitability of your contracts or projects? Do you need more accurate reporting? Once you have a wish list of your needs, then you can know what to look for in your PSA.

Moving your MSP to a PSA tool is undoubtedly an investment worth making. At some point in your businesses growth you will need the features a PSA tool offers, and if you become aware of the functionality and benefits of popular PSA tools now, you’ll soon know when you need to make the move to one